'Fragile' Highland community seeks investors with £500 for eco-tourism venture

Members of the public are being urged to each invest £500 to help revitalise a fragile Highland community.

A pioneering community group in Glengarry, Lochaber, has launched its bid to raise £250,000 to build six off-grid forest cabins in a eco-tourism venture that will in turn fund projects to fundamentally benefit the people who live in the area.

Money raised from the holiday cabins, which will be built using larch grown in a community-owned woodland, will be used to create affordable housing and a new crofting township in the long term. A forest school, wood fuel business and land acquisition will also be supported with the profits from the tourism business.

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Ross Lynn, from Glengarry Community Benefit Society, said: “Like many rural communities in Scotland, Glengarry is fragile and faces a number of significant challenges, ranging from access to affordable housing and employment opportunities to managing tourism in a sustainable way.

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"The community share offer with Glengarry Forest Cabins will appeal to those who want to invest in a project which has environmental and social sustainability at its heart. This is also an excellent example of empowered communities developing innovative ways of addressing local issues and ensuring they have a sustainable future.”

Investment in Glengarry Forest Cabins starts at £500, with those living in the area being able to invest from £25. Each investor will become a member of Glengarry Community Benefit Society and will have a say in how the forest cabin business is run.

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Residents of Glengarry will make up a majority of members and all members receive an equal vote regardless of the scale of their investment.​ They will also be eligible to be elected to the board and influence the direction of the business.

Investors can expect a potential annual return of 4 per cent on their investment in the share offer. The share offer has been announced after Glengarry Community Woodlands and the Communities Housing Trust bought land at Ardochy to build six new woodland crofts and four to six new affordable homes for local people.

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Colin Grant, Ross Lynn and Tom Cooper from Glengarry Community Benefit Society have opened up a share offer to build six off-grid eco cabins which will in turn fund projects that will create jobs, income and opportunities for local people in Lochaber.

The purchase was described as a “pivotal” moment for the history of Ardochy, where hundreds of tenants were evicted in the late 18th century after falling into rent arrears, according to accounts.

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The new homes will be build close to the abandoned township of Daingean, on the north side of Loch Garry, where 300 people reportedly lived until 1785.

The community share offer has now opened on positive investing platform Ethex with the support of Community Shares Scotland, which ensures the scheme meets national best practice standards.

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Morven Lyon, programme manager at Community Shares Scotland, said: “Glengarry Community Benefit Society (GCBS) joins a growing number of communities across Scotland using community shares to kickstart pioneering, sustainable community led businesses.

"It is inspiring to see the group demonstrate what can be achieved through community ownership and in particular how community-owned land can be managed and developed to provide wider benefit to the local community.”

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Lisa Ashford, chief executive of Ethex, said; “We are very excited to bring investors the opportunity to be a part of this pioneering community enterprise. By investing to help fund the development of the forest cabins, they will also be supporting the community-ownership model, affordable homes, biodiversity and helping create a stronger community in Glengarry.”

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